Researcher studies potential target for cancer

There are innumerable intricacies to the development of cancer, including breast cancer which is the second leading cause of cancer death for women.

One protein known as HER2, which can cause a more aggressive cancer, has already been a target for research and treatment in breast cancer. Now a different target – another protein, HER3 – is emerging as a potential crucial biomarker in some of these cases.

And Joan Garrett, PhD, assistant professor of pharmaceutical sciences at the University of Cincinnati’s James L. Winkle College of Pharmacy, hopes to learn more about HER3 and its role in breast cancer development.

“Our research is focused on understanding if mutations of a protein called HER3 are involved in causing breast cancers,” says Garrett, who is also a member of the UC Cancer Center.

Garrett recently received a $792,000 Research Scholar Grant from the American Cancer Society for this work.

Joan Garrett using a pipette in her lab

Joan Garrett, PhD, pictured here in her lab, is studying a potential new biomarker for breast cancer that could open the door to new targeted treatments. Photo/Colleen Kelley/UC Creative + Brand

“Our lab hopes to determine whether variants of HER3 are in the driver’s seat for causing breast cancer or if they are simply passengers along for the ride,” she says. “We hope to find the driver variants of HER3 causing breast cancer and identify the most effective treatment options for women who have these variants.”

Garrett, who came to the UC in 2015, has always focused on better understanding the pathways and signals that lead to cancer development.

“I am personally committed to discovering those intricate and important interactions that occur in our bodies and cells with the goal to stop cancer in its tracks and impact the lives of cancer patients everywhere,” she says. “Our lab’s work covers the gamut of basic cancer biology through translational studies and involvement with clinical trials.

“We hope that results from this study provide more clues into targeting and treating a cancer that affects one in eight women in the U.S.”

Featured image of Joan Garrett in a lab at the Winkle College of Pharmacy/Colleen Kelley/UC Creative + Brand

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